Monday, March 29, 2010

Whiteboard Work Notes

So I didn't make it down to the boat on Saturday but I did on Sunday.

I really just went to check up on her but my dad was putting up the flexible whiteboard when I got there so I got to do a little work too which was good. We put the whiteboard on the starboard side next to the ladder so that we could cover up the eyesore that once was the holes where we previously had our instruments.

We had our cockpit floor redone last winter due to its slightly sponge-like nature and we decided to upgrade our instruments due to their unreliable readings and constantly broken status. This meant we only had gross, blackhead-esque plugs where the backs of the instruments used to be. Not at all appropriate for a proper sea-going vessel. The new Garmin instruments we decided on were put onto the shiny new, slightly higher, steering pedestal.

So...we drilled the holes for the screws that were going to hold the wooden frame of the whiteboard and while the top screws dug into the fiberglass and held, the bottom ones did not, despite being the same size. So its back to the hardware store for some slightly longer screws. And I still have to get around to that sanding...

On the plus side, I dig get to read a bit more of Lin & Larry Pardey's Self-Sufficient Sailor of which I'm about halfway through. They certainly have some interesting and innovative ideas for cruising which I'll share at a later date; probably when I make it the rest of the way through the book.

Friday, March 26, 2010


I don't know about this weather. It was 71 and sunny out yesterday and now its just barely 40 with rain and just plain shitty weather. Either way, good weather or bad, the plan is to do some work on Surprise Saturday and Sunday; probably sanding which I am not fond of.

As much as I dislike sanding, (the wood particles always seem to infiltrate my eyes, nose & throat and act as mini-splinters to all three), I  like having a nice looking boat. My dad is looking at upgrading to a Vagabond 42, his dream boat, and he just found one that's price has just slipped into his range. I think he's going to go take a look at it down in VA on Sunday.

He was recently looking at Hans Christian 43 that he found on an auction website for 25K but even the low price wasn't enough to compensate for the amount of work that would have to have been put in to make it a wicked stellar boat. Well hell, even just a solid boat in good condition.

Anyhow, either case will be great for me. With my dad looking to upgrade, I get the handme down Surprise when he does; which is what I want and am very excitedly looking forward to. I'm going to have to pay for it of course but with all the work we've thrown into her, I know her inside and out. Plus I'm planning to keep all the electronics we updated only a year ago (new VHF, depthfinder, autopilot and GPS) and with the new cockpit cushions and door we plan to install, I'm very seriously considering  liveaboard plans.

Right now I just plan to put some more work into my future boat.

Also, for any readers who are interested, there is a webcam of Annapolis Harbor that you can access from the Annapolis Yacht Club's website. With the Annapolis Harbor View, you can see the mooring balls and out into the Severn River. The Eastport/Spa Creek view shows you what you would see if you panned to the right after viewing the Annapolis Harbor View. There is another webcam available on the Annapolis City's homepage (upper lefthand side) but its very grainy and not really worth it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Maryland River Bars: Upper Bay

So here is a listing of all the Upper Chesapeake Bay Dock Bars that were in PropTalk as of June of last year. It is a bit outdated but it gets most of them I think. Please share if you know of any more! Middle Bay & Lower Bay to follow.

Schaefer's Canal House - Chesapeake & Delaware Canal (2 different links)
Chesapeake Inn Restuart & Marina - Chesapeake & Delaware Canal (Not published but I've been there)
The Granary - Sassafras River
Nauti Goose Saloon - Northeast River
Woody's Crab House - Northeast River (Listed as, but does not look to me, like a dock bar)
Harbor Shack - Rock Hall Harbor
Waterman's Crab House - Rock Hall Harbor

*Authors Note: When coming into Rock Hall, do not dismiss the charts. There really is a long stretch of mud and sand there. And stay to the starboard side when going into the harbor otherwise there's about an additional foot of bottom that doesn't show up on the charts that'll grab you by keel.

Carson's Creekside Restaurant and Lounge - Dark Head Creek, Middle River
Sue Island Crabhouse & Dock Bar - Middle River
Crab Quarters - Middle River (Crab House/Not a dock bar)
Red Eye Clubhouse & Grill - Middle River (located in Red Eye Yacht Club - I don't think its open to the public but worth calling about I suppose)
Island View Waterfront Cafe - Browns Creek
Hard Yacht Cafe - Bear Creek, Dundalk
Bay Cafe - Baltimore Harbor
Rusty Scupper Restaurant - Baltimore Harbor (Less bar, more nice restaurant)
Dead End Saloon (Fells Point) - Baltimore Harbor (not a dock bar per se but it is within walking distance of several marinas)
Canton Dockside - Baltimore Harbor (Again, not a dock bar but its nearby)
River Watch - Hopkins Creek, Baltimore
Nick's Fish House - Baltimore Yacht Basin (Middle Branch)
Windows on the Bay (White Rocks Yachting Center) - Patapsco River
Magothy Seafood Crab Deck & Tiki Bar - Mill Creek, Magothy River (pretty good food. Watch the approach coming into the channel if you're close on draft though. You want stay close to the channel marker but not too close.)
Deep Creek Restaurant - Deep Creek, Magothy River
Jellyfish Joel's - Fairlee Creek

I tried to provide the best links possible to these places. If you find any other ones that are better, let me know!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pictures of Surprise

Just thought I would finally put up a couple pictures of Surprise, my family's 1986 Catalina 30 I sail on.

Obviously we're still getting her ready for spring. However, some good news is that after talking to Zarcor, we get to send the doors we were sanding to hell the other week back and they're gonna cut us another set. Seems like they've had a few problems with the top of the doors not being entirely level.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Voyagers: Past & Present

So on Thursday I finally finished A Voyage for Madmen which was a fantastic book. By the end, it really got me thinking about how a voyage like that could change a person.

Even though Robin Knox-Johnston was pronounced "distressingly normal" by the psychologist who examined him before and after the voyage, it seems like he is one of the few who kept their same basic frame of mind during the course of the race. I don't want to ruin it for you but its definitely worth the read.

Would a trek around the world really change who you are that much? I have to imagine that it would. You've just sailed around the world! Its something that very few people can say they have done and something I imagine many wish they could. Its testing yourself and a good dose of luck against the world and coming out on top. How could you be the same person?

Now, I've never met Sir Robin Knox-Johnston as Adam Turinas of Messing About in Sailboats has, but when I visited New Zealand on vacation with my family a decade ago, I was lucky enough to meet Sir Edmund Hillary of Mt. Everest fame. My brother had written a book report about him for his 4th grade class and had been obsessed since. Actually getting to meet and talk with him about his experience was purely amazing. I remember thinking at the time that talking with him was a lot like sitting down with my grandfather and listening to his war stories; full of excitement in a downplayed and humble kind of way. He was an extremely kind and calm man and we (my family) talked with him about everything from Mount Everest to Boy Scouts (encouraging my brother Allen & I to stick with it and explore the great outdoors) to life in general in New Zealand; well at least thats most of what I remember. We didn't want to take up too much of his time so we didn't stay too long but it was certainly a great experience and one that, now that I think about it, was probably pretty formative for me regarding my plans for a circumnavigation.

[I'm working on finding the pictures]

Two men pushing the boundaries of human achievement yet being able to return home. Sometimes I wonder if when I circumnavigate, if I be able to come home or if I'll only return just to shove off once more like the nautical Joshua Slocum.

Speaking of exploring and voyages, my girlfriend Danielle & I went off the beaten path this weekend and explored a nifty little town in northern Maryland; Chesapeake City.

View Larger Map

If you look closely at the map, you can see the shadow of the bridge on the water. The town is mostly known for the bridge since when the original bridge was constructed, it was to connect the town that was being split for the making of the C&D canal. Anyhow, the current bridge was built after a freighter crashed into the old one. At least that's what Wikipedia tells me. If you are interested, there is more complete information about the bridge and the C&D canal at the town's website and an extremely detailed overview available through the Army Corp of Engineer's website.

Anyhow...the town is very quaint and inviting. Danielle and I were able to enjoy a belated St. Patrick's Day Parade and accompanying bar crawl. We got to explore a bit beforehand and all the stores were really interesting and had some crazy things for sale; just off the wall stuff. 

It was a great way to spend a beautiful Saturday.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Splicing the Mainbrace!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

While I will probably stick to Guinness & Smithwicks this St. Patrick's Day, I thought the nautical thing to do would be to dole out a good recipe for grog. The best one I found is available here. It gives you the directions for both hot and cold grog.

Honestly, I have yet to try it but I think it might be a good way to kick off my holiday after work.

Speaking of grog and rum, this morning, NPR ran a story about how Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are battling over the location of Captain Morgan's rum production. An interesting piece. I just hope it means cheaper rum.

Anyhow... Happy Holidays and Sláinte!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Under Construction

To Anyone Reading This:

I'm currently (and probably will be for the foreseeable future) working on some changes to the layout of this blog.

One of the things I'm trying to do is add an interactive map that will show the location of my blog posts.

In addition, you may see some new widgets/buttons/side panel/other page stuff added or changed from day to day. Feel free to leave me a comment on what you like or don't or what you think looks better. I'm still trying to make this a fun and inviting blog page with nifty stuff. Since this is going to be in a constant state of improvement, suggestions and input are always welcome :-)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Stereo and New Door Installation Pt. 1

So yesterday was a working day on the boat.

I show up to our boat pretty excited since I'd just picked up a new stereo from West Marine and was looking forward to getting that hooked up and enjoying some Jimmy Buffett on board. However, when I show up, I get real concerned real quick. The lock that goes on the hatchboards is not there. I open her up and there are some hatches open and, given all the rain that has fallen on this part of Maryland lately, the floor (we have some cheap carpet lining the interior) is completely saturated with water.

I have a mini panic attack since I was the last one off the boat last Sunday. In my head though, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't leave the hatches open and the lock off. I'm normally pretty carful about that kind of thing. The first thing I did before even stepping past the chart table was to turn the bilge pump on. I waited but didn't hear any water coming out the back. I went to double-check. No water. I lifted up the carpet and checked the bilge. Surprisingly, barely any water. That made me feel a bit better since now I knew it was only the carpet, and not a flooded boat I had to worry about.

I got a sponge and soaked up the rest of the water on top of our cabinet on the starboard side. As I'm using a towel to soak up all the water from the carpet, I keep thinking to myself "How could you have been so careless?"

After wringing out the towel for the 10th time, I decide to take a break and install the stereo. I take the new stereo out of the box and pop it out of the bracket that comes with the thing. Since our current stereo  is the same type of head unit, I figured the new unit would just pop into the old unit's bracket. I scrunch into the port side locker, pull the wires out of the back of the old unit, use a small flat head to pop the stereo out of its bracket and push it out.

Fantastically enough, the new stereo just popped right. Man, is it nice when that happens. I plug the wires back in, add some power, and watch as the stereo comes to life. And yes, I did enjoy me some Jimmy Buffett.

The only disappointing thing was that I noticed in the port locker, there seemed to be some coolant just chilling in the bottom which means another project for another day.

I pop the cap off a beer and resume carpet drying duties.

My dad shows up with some new doors that we ordered for the boat from Zarcor that we are hoping end up looking like this: (see above).

So he wants to try to install these doors before it gets dark and its the late afternoon. I'm already skeptical. These kind of things always take at least triple the time they should. This was, in my opinion, more of a whole day project than a quick afternoon installation.

We clamp the doors together and lo and behold the doors sit too high. This means I have to drive an hour to go get the saws so we can cut it to fit.

After some subtle suggestions that we save this for another day, I end up getting the saws.

Four hours and a lot of sanding later, we have a door that mostly fits, which means it sits just a hair too high on the starboard side and a pinch too low on the port side. But it looks pretty good.

We decide to leave the hinging of the doors for another day. I mention the coolant in the port locker to my dad who takes a look. He comments on the weirdness but doesn't see any possible leaks. Says he's surprised since our engine mechanic was down here on Tuesday and he's going to have to get him to take a look.

I knew I didn't leave the hatches open and the boards unlocked.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Transpac 2011

Since Tuesday when I read on Tom's Sailing Blog that the Transpacific Yacht Club has hoisted the Notice of Race for the Transpac Race in 2011 (its under Race Documents on the left side), I have been busy reading it and trying to figure out exactly what I would need to compete in the race. I want to say I thought about it a bit, but really I read about the race and said "Yes. Now what do I need?"

There wasn't really a lot of debate.

See, while I have done a bit of racing, I've never really had to deal with the minor details and technicalities of the whole thing. I've never had to get my boat inspected, get an ORR (Offshore Racing Rule) certificate [explained by US Sailing here] or apply for a PHRF rating; all of which stem from not having my own boat. I'm not a member of US Sailing which I'm pretty sure I'll be joining soon since it looks like if you ever really want to race past high school level on your own boat, you kinda need to be a member.

I really want the experience that comes with having to worry about the minor details since I plan to do a lot more racing & sailing. Additionally, I don't want to have to pin my hopes on sailing this thing, on finding space as crew on someone else's boat. I'm still waiting to hear anything for the Bermuda Ocean Race (BOR - Annapolis to Bermuda) and you'd be surprised at how no one seems to need crew.

Pouring over these rules and regulations, looking at the date of the Transpac 2011 has really kicked my boat searching into...well atleast medium gear. Looking at and thinking about all the things that need to be accomplish can really bring you down. To race in this thing, the first thing I would need is a boat. Second, I need a place to keep the boat. Third, I need boat insurance. Fourth, I need time to fix up the boat since, lets be honest, the boat I buy is going to have to be a real fixer-upper. And most of all, I really need funds to finance this plan of mine, not to mention at least a month off of work next year.

It's a lot to overcome but where there's a will, there's a way. And I want this.

BTW does anyone have a 30'-35' sailboat they are looking to get rid of?

Monday, March 8, 2010

First Sail of the Season

So I actually got to go out yesterday on our family boat, a 30ft 1986 Catalina named Surprise, and kick off the sailing season nice and early this year. March 7th is definitely the earliest I've been out for any sailing season.

The crew aboard was my girlfriend Danielle, and my dad with my dad skippering and Danielle & I working the lines. The weather was nice for early March on the Chesapeake (Read as: upper 40's/low 50's with about 5-10 knots of wind). It was a little cold but most definitely worth going out for.

Danielle and I got to the boat around 1300 and enjoyed a nice lunch of subs and beer before I took stock and started to clean up a bit for our sail. My dad had been aboard yesterday and done some teak work on the front hatch boards and the V-berth bulkhead so there was a lot of sawdust in and around the cabin that needed to be cleaned up.

The purpose of this sail (obviously besides enjoying the lovely weather we have been given this weekend) was to move slips. We changed our slip so we could get one with a side entrance since its the same price and much easier to get on and off the boat. Once my dad got to the dock about 1430, we shoved off about 10 mins later.

We hoisted the jib and let her fly by herself for a little bit. We were moving fairly well for just having our headsail up but once we loosed the main we were averaging about 5.5 knots. We sailed circles around a poorly trimmed Island Packet that was taking its time. We zipped around the Magothy for only about 2 hours until it got cold enough to head in and dock Surprise in the new slip.

The one downer of the trip was that our stereo system seems to have crapped out on us. We have a Sony Marine system that does radio/CDs and has an AUX input for ipods, which is tremendously convenient. We have had that head unit for about 3-4 years. However, at some point in the past two weeks it just died.  Anyhow, after the sail, I squeezed into the port-side locker and fiddled with the wires and a volt meter, trying to figure out if the damn thing was getting any power or actually dead (as I feared was the case). It was getting power which is good for our wiring but bad for our little Sony unit. It looks like its just dead. Its a bummer we're going to have to get a new one but on the bright side, I get to learn a little bit about stereo installation in the near future. I really enjoy listening to music while I'm sailing so this is something that is going to have to get fixed in the very near future. This gets priority in the Boat To-Do List. 

A Catalina 30: My camera got stolen recently but I'll get some better pictures up later

Friday, March 5, 2010

Some Background

Man, I can't wait until it gets a bit warmer and I can break out the flip flops and mainsail and shove off.

Just to give you, the reader, a bit of background on me and my sailing experience, I thought I'd give you my nautical resume:

I've been sailing since I was 10 (so for almost 14 years now), I was on my high school's sailing team for three years as crew although I am a pretty decent skipper, I taught for a summer at Annapolis Sailing School's Kidships, was a lifeguard and first aid certified for four years (I should really recert; I think I will this spring), worked at the Annapolis Harbor Master's office driving boats for two seasons, raced Wednesday nights for 2009 season, raced Annapolis Race Week 2009 and I have my openwater diving certification (which I'd really like to take further but time, money, blah, blah, blah..., we'll see. I'm working on it).

So all in all, I've been around the water and I like being on boats but I'm really lacking any serious offshore sailing experience which bothers me. I've done some overnights and sailed through a few storms but no real night sailing and frankly, being confined to the Chesapeake is just not for me. I mean I've been on a boat that was sailing off the coast of Australia but most of the time it was motoring because of the storm and I didn't even really get to do anything, although storm riding was a lot of fun. The boat was rocking like crazy and I was the only one out of 25 of us who was having anything close to a good time. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

BTW: Quick note for those of you looking to sail down under, their nautical system is legitimately backwards. Its not "Red Right Returning"; its the opposite. I'm not kidding. Confused the hell out of me at first and I swore we were going to run aground.

  So moving on; lately I've been looking into some books about circumnavigation and storm tactics. I know there is a lot to prepare for when planning a circumnavigation but the only two things I really feel deficient on is my storm sailing abilities and my navigation skills. I can navigate, don't get me wrong, just not as good as I would like to be able to. The plan is to finish my book, A Voyage for Madmen, and then work my way through the navigation book my dad got me a little bit ago, The Weekend Navigator. There were a bunch of other books that caught my eye while surfing on Amazon but I have to try and make sure to buy them slowly instead of all at once otherwise I'd just leave tomorrow and my dad would be wondering what the hell happened to his boat. Don't worry though, I'll try to keep you posted when that happens.

PS: Does anyone know how the labels thing works before I go searching to try and find out?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Yacht Week

Apparently sailing is just a sexy time party in Europe. Enjoy this little treat from a Swedish-based yacht chartering company, The Yacht Week.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My First Post

Hey all. 

Welcome to Captain's Black's Sea Chronicles. I've laid out a bit of what you're going to get by reading/following these chronicles to let you know where all of this is headed and also, to keep me focused.

What You're Going to Get: This is basically going to be about me and my sailing adventures. 

That includes my continuing work towards my captain's license, my weekend outings out on the Chesapeake and connected waterways, possibly some Wednesday & Sunday night races (if I can work out some type of deal at work to leave early on Wednesdays), repair/general work notes, maybe a bit about shipping, sailing related thoughts and musings, my inevitable attempts to buy a boat, prep work for my circumnavigation and eventually the log entries of my circumnavigation. 

I have a lot to do so there is no time like now, the beginning of sailing season 2010, to get started.